Annual Meeting with Members of the AU Peace and Security Council
Tomorrow afternoon (18 July), members of the Security Council and members of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) will hold their 12th joint annual consultative meeting. Members of both bodies will hold informal consultations tomorrow morning ahead of the formal meeting. The annual consultative meeting will conclude with a joint press conference chaired by the President of the Security Council and the Chairperson of the PSC. Security Council members and PSC members have held annual joint consultative meetings since 2007, alternating between their respective headquarters in New York and Addis Ababa. A joint communiqué, which has generally been issued following these annual meetings, was still being negotiated at press time after the US broke silence earlier today.
The agreed agenda for tomorrow’s formal meeting will be the situations in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The informal consultation preceding the meeting is expected to take a strategic look at the partnership between the two bodies, as well as how their cooperation can be strengthened, and to include discussions on three broad themes: UN reforms and their impact on the UN-AU partnership, financing, and progress on the AU’s “Silencing the Guns by 2020” initiative and its related roadmap.
This will be the third time the joint consultative meeting will be preceded by an informal session. It seems that members find the informal session useful for greater interaction, as well as for more substantive discussion, particularly on more controversial topics, than the scripted joint consultative meeting. Reaching agreement on the formal agenda appears to have been relatively smooth this year, but some members may want to raise more sensitive issues during the informal session.
At the last meeting between members of the two Councils in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 8 September 2017, the situations in Somalia, South Sudan and the Lake Chad Basin were discussed. Other issues discussed included funding for AU peace and security activities and ways of further strengthening cooperation in the area of peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction and development in Africa. The important role of women and youth in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peacebuilding was reaffirmed, as was the importance of their meaningful participation in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace. Members of both bodies also resolved to forge a more coherent and effective partnership.
This year, Ethiopia took the lead in drafting a joint communiqué for the formal segment of the agenda in its capacity as chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa. At press time, it was unclear when agreement on the joint communiqué would be reached following opposition from the US on language related to the issue of financing for AU peace support operations.
Difficulties and delays in agreeing on the joint communiqué have occurred in recent years. The joint communiqué for the September 2017 meeting was not transmitted to Council members until 7 June. It seems that during negotiations on that communiqué, there were considerable differences, particularly over language on the financing of AU missions and on South Sudan. There was a similar delay following the tenth annual joint meeting on 23 May 2016, as the communiqué for that meeting was not issued until 23 March 2017.
Tomorrow’s meeting follows one day after this afternoon’s Council briefing (S/PV.8314) on the Secretary-General’s annual report on ways to strengthen the partnership between the UN and AU on issues of peace and security in Africa, including on the work of the UN Office to the AU (S/2018/678). The briefers were Special Representative to the AU and Head of the UN Office to the AU (UNOAU) Sahle-Work Zewde and AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui.
Both briefers emphasised the importance of cooperation between the UN and the AU. Zewde underscored the “unprecedented collaboration” between the UN and the AU, including the more regular exchange of information, joint briefings by special representatives and envoys of the two organisations, and joint field visits by senior officials, among other examples. She also identified areas where further collaboration was required, such as the need to align and harmonise early warning indicators. Chergui emphasised the importance of collaboration between the UN and AU in countries such as South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.
Both Zewde and Chergui raised the issue of sustainable and predictable financing for AU peace support operations. Zewde said that this issue should be framed within the context of a common political strategy agreed to by the two Councils. She referred to resolution 2378 (20 September 2017) in which the UN Security Council expressed its intention to further consider practical steps to establish a mechanism through which peace support operations led by the AU could be partly financed through UN assessed contributions, on a case-by-case basis. Chergui said that AU member states are committed to assuming their share and expressed the hope that this will serve as an impetus for the Security Council to consider providing assessed contributions to AU peace support operations.
The US in particular has concerns about committing UN assessed contributions to AU peace support operations. In its statement today, the US said that it would not consider the use of UN assessed contributions for AU peacekeeping operations without the demonstrable implementation of benchmarks for financial transparency, conduct and discipline, and human rights. Other members—including Bolivia, Equatorial Guinea (on behalf of the three African members), Kuwait, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and the UK—expressed the need for the Security Council to consider sustainable and predictable funding for AU peace support operations. These contrasting views will likely feature prominently during tomorrow’s meetings between the two Councils and in negotiations over the joint communiqué.